Global and Domestic Drowning Statistics
In 2012, an estimated 372 000 people died from drowning, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide.
- Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of death by unintentional injury, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.
- Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages.
- The highest drowning rates are among children 1-4 years, followed by children 5-9 years.
- Children, males and individuals with access to water are most at risk of drowning.
Child drowning statistics from a number of countries are particularly revealing:
- Australia: drowning is the leading cause of death by unintentional injury in children aged 1-3 years.
- Bangladesh: drowning accounts for 43% of all deaths in children aged 1-4 years.
- China: drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children aged 1-14 years.
- United States: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1-14 years.
In the United States:
- Since 2005, unintentional drowning has replaced motor vehicle traffic incidents as the leading cause of death from unintentional injury for boys aged 1-4 years. For girls aged 1-4, unintentional drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death after traffic accidents.
- 76% of reported pool related fatalities involved children younger than 5 years of age.
- Swimming pools accounted for more than 50% of all unintentional drowning death locations for children aged 1–4 years.
- Residential locations dominated incidents for victims under the age of five (61% for injuries and 84% for fatalities).
Non-Fatal Submersion Injuries:
- 78% percent of the Emergency Department (ED)-treated submersion injuries involved children younger than 5 years of age.
- The overwhelming majority of reported submersion injuries happen in pools.
- 51% of the victims of ED-treated pool or spa submersion injuries for 2010 through 2012 were admitted to the hospital or treated and transferred to another hospital, compared to 4% for ED-treated injuries to children that age involving all types of consumer products during the same time.
- Nonfatal drowning can cause brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functions.
The good news is that drowning can be prevented.
Prevention Is Vital.
“Once someone starts to drown, the outcome is often fatal. Unlike other injuries, survival is determined almost exclusively at the scene of the incident, and depends on two highly variable factors: how quickly the person is removed from the water, and how swiftly proper resuscitation is performed. Prevention, therefore, is vital.”
– World Health Organization
For more information on recommended community-based action and ways to prevent pool-related injuries and deaths, please see our article on Pool Safety.
*Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) (2010). Accessed online November 19th, 2014 from: http://wonder.cdc.gov/mortsql.html
Wold Health Organization. “Drowning. Fact sheet no. 347” (November 2014). WHO.int. Accessed online November 19th, 2014 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs347/en/
Center for Disease Control. “Drowning and Non-Fatal Submersion” (2014). PoolSafely.gov. Accessed online November 21, 2014 from http://www.poolsafely.gov/pool-spa-safety/safety-issues/drowning-non-fatal-submersion/#
Gipson K. “Pool or Spa Submersion: Estimated Injuries and Reported Fatalities, 2010 Report” (May 2010). U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC.gov. Accessed online November 19th, 2014 from:
World Health Organization. “Global Report On Drowning: Preventing A Leading Killer” (2014). WHO.int. Accessed online November 19th, 2014 from http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/drowning_global_report/GRD_Executive_Summary.pdf?ua=1
Center for Disease Control. “Stay Safe in and Around Swimming Pools” (2014). CDC.gov. Accessed online November 21, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsSafeSwimmingPool/
Xu, Jiaquan, M.D. “NCHS Data Brief no 149: Unintentional drowning deaths in the United States, 1999–2010” (April 2014). National Center for Health Statistics. CDC.gov. Accessed online November 19th, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/DB149.pdf